Fiction Reviews

Temeraire: Throne of Jade

(2006) Naomi Novik, Voyager (Harper Collins), hrdbk, 12.99, 377pp, ISBN 978-0-00-721912-4 and
pbk, 6.99, ISBN 978-0-007-21914-8


Set in an alternative post Trafalgar world, where the battle for against Napoleon and his allies continues, Temeraire: Throne of Jade presents an alternative picture of the difficult diplomatic relationship between Britain and China with the status, ownership and attitude to dragons as the centrepiece.

The story, continuing from just after the events in the first book, carries on the adventures of Captian Laurence and his amazing dragon Temeraire now known to be the most prized of all China's Dragon species, a Celestial. An ultimatum presented to the British Admiralty by a Chinese prince to which, to Captain Laurence's and Temeraire's disgust, they have acquiesced. Laurence's relationship with Temeraire is to be terminated (an occurrence normally only brought about by death) and Temeraire, or Lung Tien Xiang to give him his proper title and name, is to be returned to his rightful place in the Chinese court. Finally it is agreed that Laurence will accompany Temeraire on the long sea journey to China where the Chinese hope Temeraire will be persuaded that Celestial dragons are destined for greater things than being an instrument of war and being ridden by a mere captain.

For the second time Novik has created a superbly crafted fantastic view of the early 1800's with well crafted characters and polished descriptive sequences. A book with a long sea voyage is always at risk of being a bit sleepy and samey. Not a bit of that here with Novik dropping in potential tasters of things to come in Africa and the Indian Ocean as well tasty food along with the struggle for Temeraire's affection between Laurence and prince Yongxing. On arrival in China the intrigue deepens with the wonderfully portrayed diplomat Hammond and serious internal politics in the Chinese court where Temeraire makes a mortal enemy.

As I said in my review for Temeraire Naomi Novik achieved a rare thing in the debut novel. The good news is that it was not a one hit wonder and Throne of Jade is an equally accomplished sequel. The nervous diplomatic relationships, once again subtle character work and superb battle and societal tick all the right boxes. And ,oh-yes! MORE DRAGONS.

Another brilliant outing for Naomi Novik (and the publisher!) and thoroughly recommended. It can be read as a stand-alone book although is pretty much a seamless continuation of the story in the first book. In any case I dare anyone into this bit of the genre not to go and get the first book straight away. Another 'must have' on the fantasy fans bookshelf - can't wait for the next one which I am sure will be just a good. With a strong indication that this series will form the basis for new film by Mr Peter (Lord of the Rings) Jackson, he has purchased the film rights, I would put good English pounds on the film being based on the first three novels and on it being brilliant - I hope I am right.

Simon Geikie

Susan Griffiths has also reviewd Throne of Jade.

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